Next Stage Arts presents a double bill featuring the Hindustani and Carnatic-influenced New Age music of Priya Darshini, and the Argentinian Chamamé of the Alejandro Brittes Quartet, on Friday, October 6 at 7:30 pm at Next Stage Arts, 15 Kimball Hill, in Putney, Vermont.
Born in Chennai, raised in Mumbai, India, and based in New York, Priya Darshini’s distinct style takes inspiration from her diverse cultural and life experiences. Rooted in Hindustani and Carnatic Indian Classical music, her improvisational mastery, and vast knowledge of music from around the world, Priya’s music is elegant, tranquil, virtuosic, intricately layered, and pushes compositional boundaries while effortlessly weaving her distinct multicultural experience into a unique and timeless musical tapestry. As John Schafer of WNYC remarks “[Priya Darshini’s] music incorporates a world of influences and lives on the periphery, much like herself.”
In 2020, Priya Darshini released her debut solo album – Periphery – on Chesky Records, and was nominated for the 63rd Annual GRAMMY® Award for Best New Age Album. The album, inspired from her own experiences as an immigrant, was written for those feeling isolated and on the outside. It was recorded live, on one microphone in a vacant church in Brooklyn without any added EQ or compression. Drawing from the traditions of the past, intuitive intelligence of the present, and in collaboration with the technology of the future, the result is a daring and tempting feast for the senses and an album that is a significant addition to the world music vocabulary.
In 2021, Variety Magazine listed her amongst 10 Grammy-Nominated Women to Know, while Tatler Asia listed her amongst “Six Asian women changing the face of music around the world.” In addition to her background of chart-topping Bollywood movie soundtracks (Dil Di Nazar, Ek Pal ki Zindagi), Priya Darshini is also an actor (The Letters), the first Indian woman to complete the 100-mile Himalayan Ultra Marathon, an entrepreneur with her Ultra Marathon company The Wind Chasers, and an environmental advocate. She serves on the Board of Directors of the International Wildlife Coexistence Network, and is a trustee of the Mumbai-based non-profit organization Jana Rakshita – working with underserved pediatric cancer patients, and building educational infrastructure, with a focus on education for girls.
Chamamé – just like tango – has been declared as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Argentine accordionist, composer and researcher Alejandro Brittes, who is touring in the U.S. this September and October, has been declared one of the foremost contemporary chamamé ambassadors and innovators.
Born of the centuries-long interaction between ritual practices of indigenous Guaraní and the Baroque music influences brought by Jesuits in the Mission period (16th to 18th Centuries), chamamé can be conceived of as a ritual that seeks to communicate with the Earth and the Universe and maintain harmony among humans, through music and dance that leads participants to moments of trance. Often this ecstasy is viscerally expressed by participants through a sapucay, a piercing, spontaneous ancestral yell to release strong emotions pent up inside.
In Buenos Aires, chamamé was discriminated against and criminalized for decades (much like other popular music such as tango). Alejandro Brittes’s parents migrated from the interior of the Province of Corrientes to Buenos Aires, where his father was a pioneering chamamé event organizer and his mother a chamamé radio host, both attending to the cultural needs of the rural migrant community in the city. It was in this environment that Brittes was born and raised, amongst the most-respected chamamé musicians and ensembles, beginning his professional career at 15 years old.
Chamamé has also been described as a “danced prayer”. Performed in 6/8 time, a meter that is widely used in diverse human societies to enter into trance and communication with the Universe, the musical elements of chamamé reflect its ritual origins and spiritual values of its originators, forged in the context of the Missions, crucibles of effervescent intercultural musical activity.
The chamamé guitar maintains a percussive mantra that is reminiscent of Guaraní ritual music, and the accordion – with its expressive power – employs its low left-hand to connect with the Earth and the human realm, and its piercing right-hand melody to reach up to the Universe and the Divine. Embraced dancing couples circle around the outdoor spaces where chamamé is traditionally performed, at times breaking into percussive footwork to accompany the music. The accordion evokes the bellowed Baroque organs constructed by skilled Guaraní artisans in the Mission period, a period that was violently cut short by the imperial aspirations of Spain and Portugal in the late 18th Century.
Brittes’s latest artistic work is focused on exploring, evoking, and innovating upon the ancestral heritage of chamamé, which has survived great challenges throughout history to flourish today. Interpreting historical repertoire created in the Missions, and original compositions, Brittes collaborates with a Baroque orchestra on his project “(L)Este”, and also performs chamamé classics and original material with his Quartet. Based in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, the Quartet is composed of: Alejandro Brittes (accordion), André Ely (7-stringed guitar), Charlise Bandeira (flute), and Carlos de Césaro (contrabass).
Tickets are $20 in advance / $25 at the gate / $10 livestream. Next Stage will provide a cash bar. Advance tickets are available at nextstagearts.org. For information, call 802-451-0053 or visit nextstagearts.org.